Magna Charta Anniversary Essay #1 – The Barons

Magna_Carta_(British_Library_Cotton_MS_Augustus_II.106)by Mary W Maxwell, June 15, 2015

Would you like to be a baron? It can be arranged. Back in the Year 1215, some barons in England wrote up a list of demands and put them to King John (also known as John Lackland) for his signature. There was no legislature. These guys wanted to confirm the law in writing, and did so via a great charter.

We can get to the particulars in a moment, but I wish first to confess that my plan is to milk the Magna Charta for what it can do for us today.

I am not a historian. In these five essays I shan’t be trying to discern what went on 800 years ago. Naturally it is of great interest to imagine how things were, with land ownership being feudal, and “the state” barely existing apart from the king’s own person and castle. One of the quaint provisions in the Magna Charta is that:

“No constable or other bailiff of ours shall take corn or other provisions from anyone without immediately tendering money therefor….” Another promise by the king is that only those men who, for ages, have “been compelled to make bridge at riverbanks,” will henceforth be required to do so. Other will not be dragooned.”

But ours are not quaint times. Here we find ourselves in Australia with urgent issues, and not only a complex, formalized state to argue with, in darkest Canberra, but a World Government, whose location is unknown!  It blatantly runs the show, yet mention of that is as taboo as announcing that the Emperor is completely starkus.

So, yes, we have troubles — but we have solutions, and one of the best, maybe THE best, can be found in the very document whose 800th birthday is, by the grace of God, today, June 15, 2015.

 

Your Baronetcy, No Joke

Says the Charter:

“[W]e give and grant to them the underwritten security, namely, that the barons choose five and twenty barons of the kingdom, whomsoever they will, who shall be bound with all their might, to observe and hold, and cause to be observed, the peace and liberties we have granted…so that if we, or our justiciar…shall in anything be at fault towards anyone… and the offense be notified to four barons of the foresaid five and twenty, the said four barons shall repair to us…and, laying the transgression before us, petition to have that transgression redressed without delay.”

“And if we shall not have corrected the transgression…within forty days…the four barons aforesaid shall refer that matter to the rest of the five and twenty barons, and those five and twenty barons shall, together with the community of the whole realm, distrain and distress us in all possible ways, namely, by seizing our castles … saving harmless our own person and the persons of our queen and children.”

That probably wasn’t a very radical idea for the barons of the day. Without having an emergency phone number to call, or bobbies (Sir Robert Peel brought in the boys in blue only after 1828), they were limited to asking their own kind to help them. Still, it is a clever arrangement to start out with 4 people who confirm that the law is being flouted, then move up to 25 if needed.

This is really perfect anti-bully behavior. In fact, the very threat of calling the 25 should suffice to make the 4 very effective. What a system! I don’t know how well it worked in Days of Olde, but I am sure it can work now!

A band of four of us – not just two old whingers – would be seen to act as a check on one another’s sanity and honesty. That small group can confirm the issue of law’s violation, if it has obviously been violated.   (Let’s say the issue of Building 7 or the TPP.)

The four “barons” go to Canberra. They can do this merely electronically if they be too encumbered to travel, though it would seem to have more color if they make a personal presentation to “King John.” Then, if no joy, they are obliged – obliged, mind you – to name 25 other people as barons.

Since we don’t have Australian barons at the moment some would have to be sworn in quickly. Would you like to join this group? It is not for the lazy or the vain. Well, I suppose it’s OK for you to be vain, if you want — you just can’t be only vain, you have to care about doing the job.  Recall the phrase:

‘The barons choose five and twenty barons of the kingdom, whomsoever they will, who shall be bound with all their might, to observe and hold, and cause to be observed, the peace and liberties we have granted.”

I love the “with all your might.” That, we should assume, includes your money, your weapons, and your anger. In the Magna Charta, the baronial committee was permitted to “distrain” the king, which means take his possessions.  In Australia there can be no distraining of Commonwealth property since it belongs to all the people.

Speaking of whom, did you notice that “the community of the whole realm” is to join the barons in distressing the king. Sounds like more fun than a day at the footy.

The following suggestion by me is personal and you may not agree: I think we should not distress anyone at the very top. It is too upsetting. Our official leader is someone to whom we have an automatic, emotional loyalty even when he or she is being as naughty as hell.

To go for the top person (e.g., in the US, the member of the Supreme Court) also makes everyone wonder who’s in charge, and that creates anxiety and possibly chaos. Bet to start with a deputy or really a low bureaucrat.

I long to get at the rank-and-file protectors of the “king” today (I mean protectors of World Government — though these very annoying protectors may not have a clue whom they actually are employed by.) Media people, for example. But if we are to follow the 800-year-old plan we can’t distress the media, we can only distress “the king.”

Well, it’s something to think about. Please stay tuned for the remaining four anniversary essays, and I hope you will add Comments like mad, as time’s a-wastin.

Is it not?

 

— Mary W Maxwell is playing Alexander Haig here at Gumshoe whilst the editor is filming on location in Canada.

 

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Comments

  1. Golly wolly, look at this. Please trust this guy, my mentor since 1978.

  2. Christopher Brooks says:

    In essence the story of the Magna Carta is the timeless struggle to contain the tendency of those with power and motive to exploit the less powerful and their fair sensibilities.

    Constitutionalism has delivered sufficient results for us to know that in principle it is a valuable civilizing mechanism but it does rely on our constant vigilance and cultivation.

    In a modern specialized economic system money has become the dominant legal contract and mechanism of power to the point where most law is submissive to the dictates of money.

    “Let me issue and control a nation’s money and I care not who writes the laws.” Mayer Amschel Rothschild (1744-1812), founder of the House of Rothschild.

    • Given our situation, Baron Brooks, if you have time, please draw up two scenarios, aimed at the 24-year-olds:
      1. How they could get out of the tight spot that you describe.
      and
      2. What might be down the road in 5 years’ time if they don’t disentangle the mess.

  3. It seems I’m not as original as I thought. There is already a “Baronial Order of Magna Charta” in UK, since 1957, to “honor the principles thereof.”

    Their website offers a section on “England in King John’s reign.” It says: “In 1215 London was the second largest city in northwestern Europe after Paris. Inhabitants of other cities were called citizens, but in London they were called Barons. They were known for elegance of manners, dress and cuisine.”

    Good morning, Baron. How’s the Baroness today?

    It also says: “Just as any big city London soon became plagued with large fires, unruly drunken parties, gangs of robbers and violent street crime.”

    Could be, but I think the great fire of 1666 was set.
    I think the bubonic plague of 1667 was part of the deal.
    But then, I have a mind for mayhem.

    Finally, this: “Political correctness was unknown to the people of 1215. The English treatment of the Jews was horrible. They also had no love for the Irish, the Welsh or the Scots as they thought their manners and way of life deplorable. The French, of course, looked down on the English.”

  4. I am adding to the comment I made to Jacques on the Ursula Haverbeck article. He doubts that there are beam weapons. Massachusetts General Law:

    Section 131J. No person shall possess a portable device or weapon from which an electrical current, impulse, wave or beam may be directed, which current, impulse, wave or beam is designed to incapacitate temporarily, injure or kill, except: (1) a federal, state or municipal law enforcement officer, or member of a special reaction team in a state prison or designated special operations or tactical team in a county correctional facility, acting in the discharge of his official duties who has completed a training course approved by the secretary of public safety in the use of such a devise or weapon designed to incapacitate temporarily….

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